After reading ProPublica’s piece, An Unbelievable Story of Rape (linked below) this morning, I noted that it was probably the best piece of longform journalism I read this year. Then I started wondering why I hadn’t been keeping track. Internet longreads add a pretty significant number of pages to my nonfiction reading, but have gone virtually unmentioned here on the blog. So, I dug back into my memory and pulled up six pieces that stood out to me from this year’s internet reading.
“To war seriously against the disparity in unfreedom requires a war against a disparity in resources. And to war against a disparity in resources is to confront a history in which both the plunder and the mass incarceration of blacks are accepted commonplaces. Our current debate over criminal-justice reform pretends that it is possible to disentangle ourselves without significantly disturbing the other aspects of our lives, that one can extract the thread of mass incarceration from the larger tapestry of racist American policy.”
Ta-Nehisi Coates’s October cover story for The Atlantic is such a feat and just absolutely essential reading, particularly the history in section IV.
“That was our introduction to Washington, D.C. We were 16-year-olds, alone and in the middle of it all. Our families were back home, and in their absence, we became a family, with all of the affection, arguments, favoritism, comfort and drama that families entail. Looking back, I realize just how vulnerable we all were.”
This piece has a personal connection, as the author was a high school classmate, but I think it’s incredibly compelling reading regardless of background.
“This is part musical, part protest music; characters rap their way through songs with themes and lines that wouldn’t be entirely out of place at a Black Lives Matter protest (‘and though I’ll never be truly free / until those in bondage got the same rights as you and me’) or a Bernie Sanders rally (‘They tax us unrelentlessly / Then King George turns around and has a spending spree’).
There’s no shortage of Hamilton talk on the blog this year, but if you want to know why I love it so much, you’ll find it all in this piece on The Toast by Kendra James.
“In just a year or two, the show became the top cable program on Saturday nights, after being moved to an 8 p.m. slot, with the New York Times calling it ‘TLC’s prime-time jewel.’ It boasted 9 million viewers an episode, and by January 2002, had produced at least one water-cooler moment: the now-infamous episode where homeowner Pam cries over the loss of her brick fireplace, which has been covered with a white wooden facade despite the fact that she and her husband had left behind instructions not to touch it.”
This sent me down a rabbit hole of old Trading Spaces episodes and reaction videos that I hope I am now passing on to you.
“In that way, rape cases were unlike most other crimes. The credibility of the victim was often on trial as much as the guilt of the accused. And on the long, fraught trail between crime and conviction, the first triers of fact were the cops.”
This is gripping and heartbreaking, incredibly well-written and reported. It’s what longform journalism should be.
“Other Twitter users were fascinated by the dissonance between Westboro’s loathsome reputation and the goofy, pop-culture-obsessed millennial who Phelps-Roper seemed to be on Twitter. ‘I remember just thinking, How can somebody who appreciates good music believe so many hateful things?'”
It’s easy to get pulled down by the negativity sandwich of social media, especially in an election year, but this story is a good reminder of how powerful connection can be.
What were your favorite internet reads of 2015?